TRAVIS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. --
Two Airmen from the 621st Contingency Response Wing have been supporting the Department of Defense’s effort to combat COVID-19 since March 2020.
Lt. Col. Curt Haase and Master Sgt. John Huck from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, have been embedded with the 64th Air Expeditionary Group to help bring Air Force Reservists into the fight against the pandemic.
Huck has been the lead for the four-person personnel support for contingency operations team, made up of Reservists from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as they processed a total of nearly 300 Airmen from various units across the United States within the last eight weeks. Once they were processed through the Joint Reception Center on JBMDL, they were sent to regional hospitals throughout New York City, Connecticut and Massachusetts to assist civilian medical providers.
“Many of these Reservists arrived and were eager to hit the ground running,” said Huck. “Without much time to prepare, they’ve gotten here and are out there making a difference.”
The majority of the Air Force’s personnel contributing to the COVID fight have been medical professionals to include doctors, medics, nurses, respiratory technicians and behavioral health experts, according to Huck.
“My job is just to get them where they need to be,” said Huck. “Right now, they’re going into the thick of things and dealing with some very sick patients.”
The Airmen, working in tandem with the Army’s 44th Medical Brigade, have been supporting U.S. Northern Command, which remains committed to providing flexible DOD support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the whole-of-nation COVID-19 response.
“I have a newfound respect for Reservists and medical professionals,” said Haase, the 64th AEG deputy commander and the 621st Mobility Support Operations Squadron commander. “They have been fearless and incredibly adaptive since they’ve arrived.”
Haase, currently working out of a hotel in Manhattan, is providing the command and control function to ensure the health and welfare of the Airmen working in the AEG.
“This has been an incredible opportunity for me to see this team of Airmen from across the U.S., from 29 different wings, come together and get after it,” said Haase.
Hospitals in the northeast were tasked to manage increased patient populations despite staff shortages due to illnesses.
“Some of the hospitals were down to 60 percent manning,” said Haase. “These Airmen had to own entire wards of patients because of COVID.”
Despite the efforts of the AEG medics, many patients they cared for were not able to recover from coronavirus.
“The stress put on these Airmen day in and day out is unbelievable,” said Haase. “Many of them were at the patients’ bedside when they passed. Some of them even volunteered to video conference with families so they could say goodbye.”
“We may not have won every battle, but New York City is in a better place because of their efforts,” said Haase.
Haase attributes the success of the team to their commitment to the job.
“AFRC [Air Force Reserve Command] was the Contingency Response force of this pandemic,” said Haase. “Many of them responded to the call within hours of notification and they pushed through every obstacle. I’m proud to be a part of this Total Force team.”